A woman. A boat. And the sea.

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Just after 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, a sea-weary Margie Woods caught glimpse of Kauai — and nearly broke into tears.


Just after 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, a sea-weary Margie Woods caught glimpse of Kauai — and nearly broke into tears.

Woods was about 3 miles away from the shore of Hanalei Bay, the lone passenger aboard her 34-foot cruising sailboat “Haunani.”

And she’d been on the boat for 18 days.

The 48-year-old Honokaa native sailed more than 2,000 miles from San Francisco to Kauai by herself, as the sole female participant in the 2016 Singlehanded TransPac Race.

“When I saw the island off in a distance, I basically cried,” Woods said during a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, about an hour after docking. “I saw this huge, full rainbow right across from me. It was the most amazing thing. I felt like it was a little welcome home rainbow.”

Woods, who lived on Hawaii Island until age 10, is granddaughter of a longtime Tribune-Herald journalist, Maxine Hughes. Woods resides in California but travels back to the island regularly to visit family and friends. She said she grew up sailing with her dad and has enjoyed the hobby since. She now belongs to a sailing club in Los Angeles.

“Sailing is just a really spiritual thing for me,” Woods said. “It’s a way for me to connect with nature. It’s kind of like my church.”

She decided to enter the bi-yearly Singlehanded TransPac Race in part because it was a bucket list item before she turns 50. She was one of 23 participants to enter the event.

This year’s race began July 2 in the San Francisco Bay. Participants were given a three-week maximum traveling duration, according to the race website, and were required to sail yachts equipped for at least 30 days at sea.

Woods thinks she finished seventh overall and third in her class, which is determined by the boat’s various features. But she wasn’t in it to win it so much as finish, she said. Her boat, named after her mother, is built to cruise rather than race, she said, and has a variety of “creature comforts.”

Woods encountered some hiccups along the way.

At one point, one of her 7-gallon jugs of water — which she thought was tied down — came loose and quickly emptied. For the rest of the trip, she was forced to ration her remaining supply. And a few days before her journey ended, Haunani’s autopilot device quit working.

“Autopilot is your best friend out there,” Woods said. “I have a high-tech autopilot, and it’s great. So when it went blank the last three days, I used a backup, which was great to have but it’s not as dependable as the other one.”

There wasn’t much downtime, either.

Woods encountered persistently rough conditions thanks to Tropical Storm Celia, which sent “intense swells, big wind and rain” her way throughout the trip.

“I thought I’d have more time for playing my guitar or writing,” she said. “But basically, I was just trying to keep the boat moving. I got a few blog posts, but other than that, I was pretty focused on my boat.”

Woods was able to sporadically text and email family thanks to a satellite tracking device. But that didn’t stop family members, including her Waimea-based sister, Katie Woods, from worrying. Katie Woods, who was vacationing on the mainland at one point during her sister’s trip, recalled flying back to Hawaii and looking out the plane’s window mid-ocean.

“I remember looking down and just being like, ‘Oh my gosh, my sister is down there,’” Katie Woods said. “Just knowing she’s bobbing down in the ocean. We’ve all been a little bit nervous.”

Woods has no plans for a return trip — or tackling the race again anytime in the near future. She’s shipping Haunani and flying back to California. But she said she hopes her trip propels others to push themselves to tackle long-term goals.


“One of my things is, I try to inspire people to do stuff like this,” she said. “I like to hope something I say or do will inspire someone to take a chance and push themselves to do something.”

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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